2020 has to have been the year of binge watching for like…. everyone. So instead of a “best of” list I thought I’d do mini reviews on all the shows I watched this year. Mostly, I enjoyed rewatching shows because I enjoy them or in order to finish out the end seasons I’d missed.
But first a quick rant. There are several shows not on the list because I couldn’t handle watching them. The volume balance is just so bad–with loud sound effects and music and quiet dialog. What’s the point of watching a show if you can barely hear what they’re saying? And who wants the sound effects or music to be blaring?
I know newer tvs have all sorts of settings to offset that and fix it. First, shows should get it right. Second, my new tv just is horrible at it. I’ve messed with all the settings and talked to manufacturer support and…well I’m left with little more than this rant.
Since I watched a lot of shows on almost every streaming service allow me a moment to comment on that as well.
First, some streaming services are better with the volume mentioned above than others. Amazon Prime is pretty good. Netflix is terrible–every single show has to have the volume cranked. Hulu is in between. CBS All Access was decent. Vudu also pretty good. Disney+ is a little quiet but not bad. Just in case anyone is keeping track.
Second, content matters. And I don’t just mean original content which everyone seems so focused on. I mean just content–good content–shows and movies I’d actually want to watch. No one wants you to beef up your content library with a thousand cheap, bad or old movies and shows. I want the good stuff. And I’ll subscribe to whichever service gives me the shows I’m interested in.
Third, presentation isn’t insiginificant. Skip Intro and Skip Recap matter, at least to me. Hulu and Peacock need to catch up. Disney+ why do I have to wait until the end of the credits to skip to the next episode? Why, like Netflix, do I have to watch the last 20 seconds of foreign dubbing credits?
When you equalize content (there are several shows on the list that are available on multiple streaming services) then the deciding factor is presentation and sound balance.
I’ll choose Amazon Prime over Hulu every single time for Skip Intro alone.
I’ll choose Amazon Prime over Netflix every time because Netflix is so quiet.
Having to watch ads is barely on the list. I love IMDBtv through Amazon Prime because it’s got the shows I like, I don’t have to pump up the volume and I can skip the credits. In light of all that, ads are totally no big deal.
Now we get to the fun stuff. All the shows I watched (in no particular order) with a tiny bit of a review so I don’t forget all the things I thought.
Smallville. I watched it live back when it aired until like season 4 or 5, or maybe season 3 with sporadic episodes in 4 or 5. At this point I’ve lost track. But I wanted to see how it ended and it did… ok. Michael Rosenbaum is hands down the best Lex Luthor ever, no matter what weird direction they took his character in. Tom Welling is the second best Superman ever (behind Henry Cavill). I was never a fan of… pretty much all the girls on the show–Lois is abrasive and annoying, Lana was always a little ehh and Chloe was never impressive. Justin Hartley is a pretty fantastic Green Arrow. Less gritty than Stephan Amell and Hartley leans into the carefree billionaire side of the role more.
Arrow. Again, I watched it live until like season 4 or something. And once again I wanted to know how it all ended. Not great, that’s how. Oliver and Felicity are good characters but I never really liked the B team that much. I think that may have been both when and why I stopped watching it live. Also, the villains got to be TERRIBLE. They were so badly cast and so creepy and so over the top and every single one was more undefeatable than the last (and you’d think that would have been true about the villain with magic that made him like invulnerable, but no he was the beginning of the line of obnoxious, unstoppable villains rather than the end). So, I guess you could say Oliver and Felicity were great characters because they held the show together through a lame B team and awful villains, which is saying quite a bit.
Stargate SG-1. Back at the beginning of the year I decided to binge SG1 because I could only mostly remember how it ended (I watched that live all the way to the end). I started in season 4 or something and it was pretty much what I remembered–still thought it went off the rails with the Ori – loose not quite closed ending that I actually didn’t remember at all (I wikipedia’d the two movies). I still think of the two part episode at the end of season 10 as the series finale almost every time until I correct myself. But good, solid characters and Ben Browder was a solid addition to the franchise. Plus there’s some good quotes in the final seasons (I mean there’s good quotes throughout, but also in the final seasons).
MacGuyver. Sometime in the beginning of the year (like Apr/May) I rewatched all the early seasons so I could roll into the final season. Bummer that the most recent season wasn’t that great. The whole underground bunker villain/conspiracy felt a little contrived and also totally unbelievable. And Desi isn’t as much fun (at all) as Jack so the episodes were a bit lackluster. And I 100% don’t buy their romance. I wish that Richard Dean Anderson had been willing to come in and play his dad because Tate Donovan is a pale substitute, but he tries. Mac and Jack were the best part of the series and Lucas Till does a pretty decent job of holding things together on his own, even with all the things stacked against him.
Chicago PD. The first 5 seasons are my favorite, even though I watched 6 and beyond live (I got into reruns on USA). I love how small the character moments are and yet how well they hook you into caring about the story. Then they got a new show runner after season 5 (probably not connected to Sophia Bush’s exit in the same way Aaron Sorkin’s departure from The West Wing wasn’t connected to Rob Lowe’s exit). The later seasons don’t have the same rhythm and the characters don’t have moments or connect in the same way so, I mean, it’s still good for a police procedural, but it’s not what it was.
The Resident. This one I actually watched live and pretty much just the new season. But I like the characters and the way the story continues to pivot and, I mean, Matt Czuchry.
Manifest. Also just the most recent season. The series started off really strong and engaging. But the deeper into the mythology they got, the more weird it got. Not quite a full on Lost because they’re tying it together like they sort of know what they’re doing, but also not as engaging as the first season. Also I don’t like the direction of the characters are going, though Zeke was a good addition.
Teen Wolf. Amazon Prime kept suggesting I’d like it and I kept skipping past it insisting that I wouldn’t. Then one day I decided to give the pilot a try and man, did I like it! I don’t even like horror, but the characters are so likable and funny and the whole vibe of it just works for me. The storylines aren’t the most amazing thing ever but the cast and the characters make it enjoyable. Except for the ultra-stupid villains in the final season. I couldn’t stand either of them. And the dread doctors were unduly creepy. Especially with Lydia, ugh. But let’s not remember the yucky parts. Let’s remember how hilarious Stiles and Derek are. And how fun the B pack is and that the girls were cool and the parents were involved and had their own fun moments and that Scott really was a pretty cool alpha.
Downton Abbey. I pretty much watch Downton Abbey every year, sometimes on New Years sometimes just… whenever. I try to leave a year between each viewing, not because it’s like the best show ever but it’s so nice and quiet. Most of the quiet shows are boring or have bad production values or bad characters. And almost all shows are loud with loud sound effects and loud music and sometimes explosions, or a lot of the shows I watch have gun fights (I noticed that this year). So having a quiet show with good characters is like fantastic for me and Downton Abbey is one of the only ones that exists. I might have watched it twice this year–I definitely watched it at the end of the year (Oct/Nov) maybe at the beginning too.
Dawson’s Creek. I almost shouldn’t count this because I only sort of watched it (like the last season or two). I just wanted to binge the end because it got so muddled and I’ve found a lot of shows make a lot more sense when you can binge them. Not Dawson’s Creek. Turns out even when you watch the episodes all back to back it still jumps all over the place in the end and really couldn’t figure out what it was doing until the last second so it didn’t do it well. And Dawson is like twice as obnoxious as I remembered and so petty and self-centered and immature right up to the end. Joey flip flops all over the place for zero reasons except everyone loves her so she can. Pacey is a total screw up but he’s got the best heart of them all and totally doesn’t deserve all the flak he gets. I remember why I liked the early seasons in the 90s when they aired but after a certain point it’s just a mess.
Picard. I didn’t expect much because I didn’t know what to expect. And then I loved it. I love Picard as a character and Patrick Stewart’s performance. I loved delving into the Romulan culture some and the post-Borg and the flashbacks. I could have done with out the blond (I don’t know why–she worked well in the beginning but then after the turn she just felt insubstantial for the role), but liked Santiago Cabrera (when don’t I like him). If this was a list of top 10 shows, Picard would be near the top.
Star Trek: The Next Generation. Because after I watched Picard, I wanted to go back and revisit all the wonderful history behind it. I didn’t get all the way through the series before the end of the year (I’m at the start of season 7) but it still counts. First, quiet show with good characters! Second, twice as cheesy as you remember because it was the late 80s and the early 90s and this was all technology could do on a tv budget but they tried real hard and the substance of the universe and the characters works.
Flash. ok, just the final seasonOverall the season was a let down. I’m not sure I care enough to watch the next one, but I probably will.
Chicago Med. I only watched like the first 4 seasons. After Colin Donnell leaves it’s not as much fun anymore (I watched those seasons live, so I remember – it’s all the annoying aspects of Will’s character and Natalie gets even more annoying which is hard because she’s already pretty self-righteous.) But I was curious about the early seasons and how they led up to the later ones I’d watched. Not as good as Chicago PD, but not terrible.
Alias. I hoped that watching the whole series on a binge would make it all make more sense. Spoiler alert – it doesn’t. In fact, I’d forgotten a lot of the last season and the cast replacements. It should have been a standalone series and it would have worked fine but the Rambaldi mythology is just a wreck. No one should have been surprised that Lost was convoluted too. Let JJ Abrams stick to movies and stay out of the mire of tv shows.
Nikita. I’m pretty sure that was 2020. It could have been 2019 but it seems right to mention it alongside Alias so I’m going to go with it. The whole series was a rewatch and it’s loud and convoluted too. Amanda is a TERRIBLE villain and completely ridiculous. Percy isn’t much better. But Michael, Owen and Burkoff are really good characters that take their tropes and give them a bit of dimension. As dumb as the overarching story is at times, all the pieces slot together better than Alias. And Maggie Q is pretty cool.
Victoria. Another show Amazon Prime foisted upon me that I liked. It’s quiet and has decent characters. It’s a bit hamstrung by history so you kind of know where it’s all going. But I only have cursory knowledge of Queen Victoria’s reign so I don’t know all the places it’s accurate and where they dramatized it.
Roswell, New Mexico. I rewatched s1 to lead into s2, ’cause why not. s2 was not as good. There’s the whole weird Max thing I mean first with him barely in the story and then the other thing. And I didn’t think Rosa brought much to the story as a character. And since almost everything revolved around those two, everything was less interesting. Anyway, disappointing overall compared to s1. I’m curious what a new showrunner will bring.
Shooter (ugh!). I watched the first season a while back–it really is basically a long form version of the movie. But Shantel VanSanten and Ryan Phillippe are engaging versions of these characters. s2 was ok but I was curious how it all would end.
iZombie. Again this one barely counts since I only watched the final season to see how it all ended. I wasn’t a huge fan of the renegade storyline but Robert Buckley should be in more tv shows. And I thought it ended quite decently.
Graceland. I watched the first two seasons and then quit. I may not have finished the second season. I might have quit at the beginning of the third season. It started out fine, but then the characters just went completely off the rails and acted out of character and it was all just so, so very stupid. So much that I don’t even want to put up an image.
Mandalorian. I watched s1 at the tail end of 2019 and then s2 in 2020. It’s well written and well made. But I don’t connect to it emotionally in a way that makes me want to rewatch it. Or, like, love it.
Fringe. Another rewatch I hoped would make more sense on a binge. First of all, much grosser than I remembered. Secondly, less confusing on a binge even though the multiple versions of Olivia get tiring.
Everwood. Nostalgic rewatch, plus even though I thought I finished it, I don’t think I actually did. I think I quit after the Madison season and I realize now for good reason. That was a terrible season and everything that came after it was pretty bad also. But they were able to pull it all together for a decent ending at least.
Eureka should count even though my full series rewatch was in 2019. Because I recommended it to like three different people. And also because I did watch certain episodes here and there throughout the year when I wasn’t in the mood for anything else (quiet, fun show with good characters). And then I rewatched the last few seasons toward the end of the year again because from 1947 on it’s pretty great.
Psych. ok, not the whole series but bits and pieces here and there because the standalone episodes make it easy to jump in and out of. And it’s really funny though kind of loud (I mean, like a lot of shows are loud but it’d be nice if it were a little quieter).
Sweet Magnolias. Super cute, sweet show with great characters that’s not loud. I need more seasons now, please.
Atlantis. It’s only two seasons so this is an easy one. And I don’t remember why I decided to rewatch it except maybe I thought it’d be quiet. And it mostly is. I like Jason and I like Ariadne and they make a lot of the show and the stories work. The ending is left too open for a s3 that never was, but enough things come together at the end that it’s not so bad.
Merlin. I rewatched most of it (I finished the final season the first week of the new year so it counts). I almost didn’t watch it because the sound isn’t great, even on Amazon Prime. But I enjoy it overall and it makes more sense with a good binge, especially Morgana’s descent into villainy.
With that, I’m thinking this may be the last year for this list. All the streaming services are coming out with original content and while shows are still getting made for network I’m really not that interested in most of them. I rewatch more than I watch anything new and it just doesn’t quite seem worth talking about any more.